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Oil Prices Fall As COVID Infections Spike

Oil prices fell on Tuesday as sentiment shifted due to an increasing amount of uncertainty surrounding the second wave of COVID-19

Chart of the Week

-    Fuel ethanol production capacity in the U.S. hit 17.3 billion gallons per year (gal/y), or 1.1 million barrels per day (b/d), as of January 2020. Capacity was up 3 percent year-on-year in January.

-    12 of the top 13 ethanol-producing states are in the Midwest, with Iowa holding 4.5 billion gallons per year in capacity, roughly double the state with the next largest capacity (Nebraska).

-    Despite growing capacity, actual production has declined recently. Output was down because gasoline demand plunged following the onset of the pandemic. The EIA sees production averaging 0.9 mb/d in 2020, down 13 percent from 2019 levels.

Market Movers

-    Dominion Energy (NYSE: D) was upgraded to Overweight by JPMorgan with an $84 price target. The bank said Dominion is “best positioned to highlight ‘green rate of change’ and attract incremental ESG investors.” 

-    Baker Hughes (NYSE: BKR) announced an order to supply main refrigerant compressors to four “mega trains” for Qatar Petroleum’s North Field expansion project. It is one of Baker Hughes’ largest LNG deals in the past five years. 

-    Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) said it would spend $6 billion to decommission 18 offshore platforms through 2024.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Oil prices slid on Tuesday as traders grew cautious on demand fears and rising coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and Europe. “Sentiment is suffering from the uncertainties related to Covid-19,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodities strategy at BNP Paribas SA.

Oil stuck at $40. Oil prices have been rangebound at around $40 per barrel for months, and there is little sign that prices will break out anytime soon. “The market is stuck,” Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Group AG, told Bloomberg. “For prices to rally, OPEC+ spare capacity needs to drop, and to see that, demand needs to recover further. As long as there’s not a second global lockdown, oil can’t fall too far below $40.”

India cuts refinery runs. Indian refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp. will maintain lower refinery runs due to weak diesel demand, a symptom of a slow recovery in industrial demand.

Libya restarts exports. Libya’s oil production has climbed to 250,000 bpd, up from 90,000 bpd, as the blockade on the country’s oil export terminals is partially lifted. Exports at the eastern ports of Hariga, Brega and Zueitina have resumed, but Es Sider and Ras Lanuf remain offline. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs estimate that exports could rise to 0.5 mb/d by the end of the year, and potentially rising to 1 mb/d by the end of the first quarter in 2021. 

Rosneft criticizes BP’s energy transition. Rosneft (OTCPK:RNFTF), which partners with BP (NYSE: BP) in Russia, criticized the British company’s shift to renewables. “It is an existential threat for supply. It is an existential threat for price volatility... we will have a [supply] crunch, price volatility, and yes higher prices,” Rosneft's Didier Casimiro told the Financial Times Commodities Global Summit.

Colorado drilling setbacks, emissions control, go forward. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted Monday for 2,000-foot setbacks. A final vote on that rule and many others is expected in early November. The oil and gas industry says the move will devastate drilling in the state by limiting drilling locations. Meanwhile, a separate state agency passed first-in-the-nation rules requiring companies to cut emissions from drill sits, storage takes and pipelines. 

Devon Energy merges with WPX. Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN) will acquire WPX Energy (NYSE: WPX) in a $2.6 billion all-stock deal, a move that will make Devon larger than Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) and Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO). The share prices of both Devon and WPX jumped on the news, but fell back on Tuesday. The move comes after Chevron (NYSE: CVX) acquired Noble Energy, and may signal more consolidation ahead. Notably, Devon has large acreage on federal lands, which could be at risk if Joe Biden wins the presidency. Acquiring WPX would diversify Devon’s holdings.

Technology will be vital as oil and gas rebounds. The oil and gas industry is going to have to rely heavily on technology to cut costs and increase efficiency. According to industry giant Buurst Inc, there are three key technology trends that will help revive the oil and gas industry. These trends include cloud storage, closing data centers, and cross-platform business partnerships. Related: Natural Gas Prices Explode On Stronger Demand

Natural gas prices surged on weather. The U.S. west coast is seeing high temperatures, while the east is in a cold spell. Natural gas prices surged to $2.80/MMBtu, but fell back to around $2.50/MMBtu on Tuesday.

Swedish battery maker raising $600 million. Swedish lithium-ion battery manufacturer Northvolt is raising $600 million in equity, with investors including Volkswagen, Goldman Sachs, and Spotify founder Daniel Elk. Northvolt aims to capture 25 percent market share in Europe by 2030.

EPA pushes back on California ICE ban. The U.S. EPA is raising legal questions about California’s plans to phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles. 

Canada-to-Alaska railway to go forward. U.S. President Donald Trump is set to approve a $22-billion freight railway project that will run between Alberta and Alaska to transport a variety of commodities such as oil, ore, and potash, as well as container goods.

Trump’s offshore drilling ban hits offshore wind. The Trump administration recently blocked offshore oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. But the restrictions could limit offshore wind as well. 

Judge removes BLM acting director. For more than a year, William Perry Pendley has led the Bureau of Land Management as an Acting Director, having not received Senate confirmation. A U.S. judge ruled that his leadership was illegal, a ruling that removes him from the job. The ruling has broader implications. There are now legal questions over whether every BLM rule under his tenure may now be invalidated – decisions that may affect oil and gas leasing.

Shell preparing thousands of job cuts. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) is preparing thousands of job cuts as it nears the completion of a major restructuring. 

China on track to buy record LNG. China is on track to increase LNG imports by 10 percent this year to a new record high. Related: Natural Gas Prices Explode On Stronger Demand

China’s car sales increase. In a sign of ongoing recovery, China’s car sales have increased for two consecutive months. 

Guyana nears deal with ExxonMobil. Guyana is close to reaching a deal with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) to approve the company’s Payara project.

Trafigura forms renewables unit. Oil trader Trafigura announced plans to invest $2 billion in renewables. 

Oil and gas investment to fall, then rebound. The amount of new money going into oil and gas FIDs will drop to around $53 billion, down from 2019’s $190 billion, Rystad Energy projects. FID spending will double next year and exceed pre-pandemic levels already from 2022, the firm said. 

By Josh Owens for Oilprice.com

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  • George Doolittle on September 29 2020 said:
    Seems a little odd that oil prices would plunge on news of a major war as possible in the Caucuses. Anyhow crazy to be bearish on the US Dollar on that news.

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